The network effect concept – in which a service increases in value in proportion to the number of its users – has transformed the world, including real estate, primarily with how technology applies, takes advantage of and scales by applying it.
Organizations that don’t develop technology, like most real estate brokerages and teams, may not realize they can harness this powerful concept, too, in a dynamic way: to expand and diversify their human resources.
Research has long shown that over half of job vacancies are filled through individuals leveraging their networks. But most networks are homogenous, connecting people with similar genders, races, and belief systems.
When it comes to hiring, these types of networks can perpetuate the lack of diversity and inclusion across organizations and industries, potentially leading to a slowing of innovation and growth. Networks matter a lot. But, like opportunities, they are not always distributed equally.
But, with conscious effort, real estate organizations can leverage the network effect to increase the diversity of their hiring. The steps to do so are:
- Build awareness
- Identify diversity gaps
- Create a plan
- Synch stakeholders
- Expand networks
Awareness of the situation is a key first step. If hiring managers are relying only on their networks, they could get a limited set of specific candidates. Paying attention to these hiring practices is an important initial step toward making a change.
Identify diversity gaps
After becoming aware of the problem, next it’s important to identify the ways and to what degree the brokerage or team lacks diversity.
Ask: What are the current gaps? How diverse is the organization now? Is there a lack of women? Ethnic diversity? Gender diversity? Age diversity? What communities are underrepresented?
Create a plan
After identifying diversity gaps, the next step involves creating a plan to bridge them. Document an overall strategy to increase the diversity in the workforce. This doesn’t have to be specific placements; rather, it can be committing to a percentage of diverse hires over a specific period or an altogether change in hiring strategies.
Work with key stakeholders, including leadership, hiring managers and staff to expand and diversify the company’s network. Remember, the goal is to meet new people of all backgrounds in different settings to build positive relationships. When working with that intention, rather than just to check off some diversity boxes, new hires and current employees alike are more likely to succeed.
Expand and diversify networks
With the previous steps in place, now companies can focus on expanding and diversifying their networks. Here are a few suggestions on how to go about it:
- Review and diversify networks: Networks are often a reflection of the individual. People who have had different experiences can provide another perspective, so intentionally stepping away from the usual connections and branching out helps diversify and expand networks.
- Emulate the diversity of the audience: Networks should represent the diversity of the audience you are trying to serve. Connecting with those with a variety of experiences and approaches is immensely beneficial. An organization should be training its hiring managers to make sure they are seeking the best people, regardless of the way they look, their age, gender, etc.
- Identify and connect with the non-conformists in the industry: Seek out those with assorted backgrounds, viewpoints, and life and career experiences—and connect with them. Their alternate way of looking at and approaching things could shift the perspective for the better
- Connect with new people routinely: Be purposeful about connecting with more individuals in the industry. The more diverse the network, the more views and ideas expand.
- Mix it up with other industries: The ability to network with other industries allows for an exchange of ideas. Look for networking events across other sectors and encourage key stakeholders to take part in them to create meaningful connections and broaden scope.
- Mix it up with other cultures: Expand your own horizons by attending multicultural organization events and getting involved in your community. You might just expand your network in the process.
Hiring within one’s network is always easier. And looking ahead to a continually shifting labor market, the worth of networks only stands to grow. But what is easiest isn’t always the most valuable, nor the most forward-looking. Expanding and diversifying networks can keep an organization – and everyone in it – on the path to innovation.